A hugely exciting night ahead and for now we will just concentrate on the positives in our sport at a time which was due to be a celebration of excellence and all that is good in the game. The fastest professional athletes on the planet will do battle for a place in the final of the most prestigious greyhound competition in the world.......and that's all I'm concentrating on today!
For the first time in twelve months, we are back on mainstream TV with five live races on the RTE coverage from 8 to 9.30pm. The first of those is a classy 550 yard event with runners who all contested the Derby itself.
Race 3 Trap 3 Barefoot Painter. Knocked out in the first round of the Derby behind Concrete Jungle who re-opposes tonight, the selection is confidently put forward to get us started in profit. Yes there is some early pace to his inside but he is plenty capable of matching them in the early strides and anything approaching a clear run would see him too strong for that pair beyond halfway.
A threat here would be Me Phat Daddy if returning to his best break but a concerning draw in Trap 5 may be enough to negate that threat especially when considered that in contrast, Painter has his ideal draw. He is 4 from 5 when wearing the white jacket and unlike his opponents who went deeper in the Derby and all ran in the last fortnight, he has had a month to re-assess and is likely to present fresher than any. Expect him to start around the 2/1 mark.
Race 4 Trap 2 Fast Fit Alex. Quite an amount of early pace here which includes reserve Toolmaker Obama in Trap 3 after the withdrawal of Tyrur Hugo and the draw can prove key for the selection. Toolmaker will be kept busy with his attempts to repel brilliant early pacer Cometwopass on the run to the bend and this pair are a major complication for the much respected Ballybough Dad who will be expected to contest close to them on the outside upon turning.
The task for Fast Fit Alex is much more straight-forward than all those mentioned who will be sweating a clear run. Alex can outpace Slippery Billy on his inside for command of the crucial rails pitch and his claims for a clear run are much more plausible. He could possibly lead but even if Cometwopass turns in front, a likely handy position in behind should see Alex pick him up close home at around 9/4.
Race 5 Trap 2 Elusive Heights. Yeah I know, I'm tipping a 14-race maiden to win the semi-final of a Derby Plate but I can see this happen. The selection ran a cracker last week when simply not close enough at the second bend to use his powerful stamina for victory. However, he can turn closer tonight and we will be hoping that the favourite gets everything right from the boxes. Expecting Jaytee Dutch to run wide off the first bend (which he is given to do lately), this heat does not house much early pace and he could hold up the field just enough for the selection to close right up on the inside. In this scenario we would have realistic claims to see the strong stayer gain a deserved first career success at around 11/2.
I won't have a bet in the first semi-final of the Derby, for the simple reason that I can't be adamant about what will happen from traps but I can see how the fancied duo of Native Chimes & Tyrur Harold could find a problem or two. If I do put my hand in my pocket, it will be small change coming out and it will go on Buckos Dream for I believe that he can lead to the bend again. 6/1 is big enough to risk small money while hoping for trouble behind to collect.
If he does, he gives dangerous runner Jaytee Barracuda the opportunity to track him with an ideal tow to the back-straight and as long as Jaytee has Bucko to aim at, he will be so difficult to overhaul for anyone who ends up behind him. Of course Native Chimes and Tyrur Harold are the big two here. A concern for both is how Harold moved markedly towards the rails form Trap 5 last week which was a little surprising. Hard pressed, I'd say he won't do that again....but he could I suppose. If he did, that could spell big trouble because although an outsider, Hey Bound can move to the bend and backing either of the favourites at 6/4, you do not want him on your inner when preparing to turn, especially if your main rival is also paw to paw with you as Bucko cuts the nose off everyone.
I expect the class of both Native and Tyrur to get them out of any potential trouble and a fast break for either would settle the race. In fact a fast break for either would almost certainly help the other by affording extra racing room. But with the respected Black Farren ideally drawn, a question or two at trap rise along with the enigmatic Barracuda with a heaven sent draw, there is just too much for my brain to work out here and I'm leaving it alone.
This may have just five runners with the loss of a superstar but it is still a compelling likely thriller with simply amazing exponents of the art. To think that a dog who went under the track record for 550 at Longford in June could be 25/1 in a five runner race, well, that's just testament to Drumsna Star's opposition here.
As ever, the draw is key and that is the reason Good News earns the vote. There have been many runners in the Derby who would expect to lead the main players here on the run to the bend but in reality, Good News, Sonic and Kilgraney Ace probably all average the same from boxes to the turn. In that situation you would always like to be on the inside when arriving at the bend and fancying Good News is as simple as that. The three mentioned are expected to contest the lead and given clear runs, are the three I would select to qualify......but, we have learned not to ever discount the mighty Jaytee Jet.
He will again be flying close home and any problems for the leaders will see him pounce on a qualification spot without hesitation. It's going to be a fascinating watch but the draw says Good News at around 7/4.
**I have a few passes for Shelbourne tonight so call to the kennels during the day if you're close to me. Otherwise just get in touch before entering the track but make it early, I will be tied-up from about 6.40 onward.
See you all tonight, from this angle!!